Mountain Wheels: Tech upgrades add to the frugal versatility of the Audi Q3

One of Audi’s most popular vehicles, the little Q3 offers two engine choices, but is universally equipped with Quattro AWD.
Courtesy picture

People can sometimes overlook the off-road capabilities of your average contemporary SUV, but after a wild and exhaustive cross-mountain route a few weeks ago in the 2022 Audi Q3, I can safely say that this low-cost, purpose-built automobile urban still has a versatile, all-road spirit.

We don’t get many opportunities to see everything Audi does now in our Denver-area media fleet, but my ride in a vastly improved S Line 45 model – priced at $48,740 – suggests that the company’s incremental technological changes begin to show in each mockup.

You can still, in theory, order a base Q3, Model 40, for around $34,000, which will get you a 2.0-liter turbo with 184 horsepower, and still comes with standard Quattro all-wheel drive and an automatic transmission. eight-speed.

My S Line model starts at $38,700 and gets the added bonus of a higher-output 2.0-liter, generating 228 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. That makes it over a second and a half quicker to 60mph than its smaller sibling, but can still generate an attractive 28mpg or more on the highways.

The latest tech bits, included in an optional tech package, include a very impressive 10.1-inch touchscreen with 3D Google maps, using live data to build their displays as I drove – sometimes with snow, sure – but surprisingly useful, even in areas with poor cell service.

I also got the full 12.3-inch Virtual Cockpit screen, with more adaptive readouts or map duplication, and a premium Sonos sound system.

The Q3 also came with an optional Black Optics Sport Package, which offered high-gloss black roof trim and roof rails, specially embossed and stitched sports seats, and a cool LED mood lighting system. For some reason the Audi phone booth that amplifies the phone signal was not included. A triplicate upgrade package put the Q3 on 20-inch wheels, upgraded from the standard 18-inch part and the 19-inch part from the sports pack.

Q3 debuted in 2013 and has been one of the German brand’s most popular models in the United States, but this most second-generation model, which first appeared in 2019, incorporates the more styling cues cubists seen in the very chic Q8.

Inside, it’s still an undramatic affair, with a streamlined console and dashboard and displays that aren’t overwhelming in any way. You’ll find an easier-to-reach stop-start button located higher on the stack, and a real volume button that I managed to miss for the first five days of my ride – plus a wide tray topped with controls drive selection and hill descent.

For the first time, I pulled a Q3 off the pavement and down a series of rough gravel side roads between Golden and Black Hawk. This allowed me to try the real off-road settings and find that they turned off the stability control – perhaps it’s designed more for crossing streams or crawling over rocks – and also found that the descent from the hill kicked in once I reached a fairly steep note.

The reality is that the Q3 is still primarily designed to be a small but capable urban machine, with enough all-weather versatility to make it a great winter performer. Vehicle size has been increased a bit, with an additional 3.8 inches in length and 1.5 inches in width, producing a 176.6-inch-long vehicle with just a little more presence overall. The Q3’s cousin, the Volkswagen Tiguan, is still a little longer, but the Audi gains space and height for the rear seats, abundant storage space in the rear of the vehicle and a comfortable ride height.

This model certainly offers an attractive revamp of the Q3’s appearance, with a bold and distinctive octagonal grille, flatter hood and bright LED headlights (and taillights) also standard on all models. A large and bright full sunroof is also standard, along with heated leather seats. For the next 2023 models, full LED headlights are standard and a wireless charger will replace that phone booth – now I see what was happening. The standard 40 model will have 18-inch wheels as a regular choice, plus 19-inch wheels as an option


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